Apple Is Actually Selling Sixteen Different iPhone 12 Models

Be careful if you plan on doing any cross-border shopping.
iPhone 12 Pro Colors1 Credit: Apple
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While we already know that Apple will be selling both mmWave 5G and non-mmWave 5G versions of each of its iPhone 12 models, it turns out that there are even more variations of each iPhone 12 that are going to be sold in different countries.

While the mmWave versions of each model will be sold exclusively in the United States, and it doesn’t look like the non-mmWave models will even be available to U.S. customers, Apple is actually making four versions of each iPhone 12 model — the mmWave U.S. version plus three more without mmWave support to be sold in different regions around the world.

According to Apple’s Regional 5G and LTE Page, this means there are actually a total of sixteen different iPhone 12 models being sold this year. Four versions each of the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Thankfully, unlike Apple’s early LTE iPhone and iPad models, which often saw different versions sold on different carriers in the same country, Apple has cut the confusion in this case by ensuring that each variation meets the LTE and 5G requirements for all of the carriers in a given country.

This means that there will only be one version of each iPhone 12 model sold within any given country, so this shouldn’t affect you as long as you stick with reputable retailers and carriers who are selling legitimate iPhone 12 units, rather than those who may be importing them from elsewhere.

However, this should be a caution for those who may be looking to purchase iPhone 12 units online from international sources, since you may not get a version that works in your country due to the differences in LTE and 5G frequency support.

Why So Many?

The fact is that there’s a huge variety of radio frequency bands that are available to be used for cellular service, and different carriers and different countries have chosen specific bands for their use.

Sometimes this comes as a result of government regulation, since each nation has its own equivalent of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that licenses and allocates spectrum. However, in other cases it’s simply a matter of the carriers choosing the frequencies that work best for their own regions and customers, while avoiding frequencies that may be more commonly used in those areas for things like weather and military applications.

Antenna and radio design is a complicated engineering task, especially when dealing with a device as small as an iPhone, and there’s simply no way that Apple can possibly make a single iPhone that works efficiently with every frequency in use around the world. If anything, it’s almost a miracle that it can manage to make a single 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini support up to 30 LTE and 20 5G bands in the first place (as is the case with the new U.S. models).

So Apple has to pick and choose which frequencies to group together in order to produce models that will work best in each of the countries where the iPhone is sold, and this year that means that Apple has produced specific versions of each iPhone 12 model, with one for the United States (with mmWave support, of course), plus two for Canada/Japan, and mainland China/Hong Kong/Macao, and then lastly one model that covers the rest of the 200+ countries where the iPhone is sold.

Model Numbers

If you are considering purchasing an iPhone 12 from abroad or from an online source like eBay, you can check the model number to make sure that it’s compatible with the carriers in your country. Here are the models being sold in each country:

  • iPhone 12 mini: A2176 (U.S. mmWave), A2398 (Canada & Japan), A2400 (mainland China), A2399 (rest of the world)
  • iPhone 12: A2172 (U.S. mmWave), A2402 (Canada & Japan), A2404 (mainland China, Hong Kong & Macao), A2403 (rest of the world)
  • iPhone 12 Pro: A2341 (U.S. mmWave), A2406 (Canada & Japan), A2408 (mainland China, Hong Kong & Macao), A2407 (rest of the world)
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: A2342 (U.S. mmWave), A2410 (Canada & Japan), A2412 (mainland China, Hong Kong & Macao), A2411 (rest of the world)

The specific 5G and LTE bands and frequencies supported by each model can be found on Apple’s support site, but as a rule this should give you a bit of caution about ordering an iPhone 12 from outside of your country unless you’re absolutely certain as to which bands your preferred carrier uses.

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